The COVID-19 pandemic tremendously disrupted ECE in the U.S., closing many private programs and nearly all public preschool and primary classrooms. To understand this impact, we used multiple strategies, including a nationwide survey of parents; a review of state policies, guidance and resource documents; and scans of media coverage to obtain information on how the pandemic has shaped policy and the ECE experiences of young children and their families across the U.S. beginning in the spring and continuing through the fall of 2020. Our findings suggest that the pandemic has highlighted already existing problems in the fragmented ECE system. Pandemic-related problems may give rise to greater support for better integrated systems and consolidation in the public sector but might also lead to support for an expanded private sector role.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted early childhood education (ECE) in the U.S. closing many private programs and shifting many public preschool and primary classrooms to a mix of remote and in-person, or even entirely remote education. More broadly, the pandemic overwhelmed the health and education systems suggesting a need to rethink and transform their infrastructure, technology, and human interactions. Conceptually, our research was designed to inform a rethinking and transformation of early education systems that might lead to new ways of defining early learning. To that end, we used multiple strategies to obtain information on how the pandemic has shaped policy and the ECE experiences of young children and their families across 50 states and D.C. beginning in the spring through the fall of 2020. Our data sources included a nationwide survey of parents, a review of state policies, guidance and resource documents, and scans of media coverage on the development of the pandemic and the early education systems’ responses.
Although this is a mixed methods approach, the need for quick results and descriptions across all states precluded more rigorous methods that would dig deeper. Our survey was multivocal as it was fully inclusive of the population and allowed us to examine the responses from many subgroups. Survey participation was supported by financial incentives and provision of internet access to those who needed it to participate; the survey underwent IRB review and obtained informed consent. We present our analyses in chronological order, beginning with the family survey (Spring 2020); followed by the reorganization of the ECE system (Summer 2020); and concluding with the ramifications of the pandemic on ECE (Fall 2020).VIEW LINK »